Schematics for U.S. ballistic missile defense systems have been among the weapons designs targeted by Chinese cyber assaults, the Washington Post reported on Sunday, citing a new report from the Pentagon's Defense Science Board.
The extensive list of targets includes designs for the Patriot Advanced Capability 3, the Terminal High-Altitude Area Defense system, the Aegis Ballistic Missile Defense System, and several iterations of the Standard Missile interceptor.
The Defense Science Board report, which has not been made public, does not assert the designs had been illicitly acquired by China. However, the U.S. government has increasingly focused on the Chinese cyber threat to its operations and those of federal contractors. Beijing has denied any such computer assaults against the United States. The issue is expected to be discussed during next month's meeting between President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping.
China could use the designs in its own arms programs or to manage the threat posed by U.S. weapons technologies during a theoretical war.
"If they have a better sense of a THAAD design or PAC-3 design, then that increases the potential of their ballistic missiles being able to penetrate our or our allies’ missile defenses," said Mark Stokes, executive director of the Project 2049 Institute.
The Defense Department on Tuesday responded to the matter without directly referencing the report or China.
"We maintain full confidence in our weapons platforms," Pentagon spokesman George Little said in prepared comments."The Department of Defense takes the threat of cyber espionage and cyber security very seriously, which is why we have taken a number of steps to increase funding to strengthen our capabilities, harden our networks, and work with the defense industrial base to achieve greater visibility into the threats our industrial partners are facing. Suggestions that cyber intrusions have somehow led to the erosion of our capabilities or technological edge are incorrect."